Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen (right) celebrates after he scores. EMPICS Sport

Eriksen winner gives Pochettino vindication as Spurs topple Saints

The coach quit Southampton in acrimonious circumstances to take charge at Tottenham.

TOTTENHAM MANAGER MAURICIO Pochettino enjoyed a moment of personal vindication as Christian Eriksen’s goal secured a 1-0 win over his former club Southampton on Sunday.

Pochettino quit Southampton in acrimonious circumstances to take charge at Spurs in the close-season and his first reunion with his old employers proved a sweet one for the Argentine.

After a difficult start to his first season in north London, this was a much-needed success for Pochettino as Eriksen struck in the first half at White Hart Lane to give Tottenham their first Premier League win since August and only their second victory in eight matches in all competitions.

Pochettino was a big hit during his year and a half at Southampton and led the club to their best ever Premier League finish last season.

But his successor Ronald Koeman had arguably surpassed even that achievement by surviving the turmoil caused by the sales of a host of key players to lead Southampton into Sunday’s grudge match on the back of six successive wins in all competitions.

In the circumstances, Pochettino desperately needed to show Tottenham’s notoriously demanding chairman Daniel Levy that he had made the right appointment.

Pochettino was jeered by Saints fans when he emerged onto the touchline for the first time, but it was the Argentine who would have the last laugh.

Jan Vertonghen went close to opening the scoring in the early stages when the Tottenham defender’s looping header from Erik Lamela’s corner was nodded off the line by Ryan Bertrand.

As befitted a clash between two teams drilled in the high-tempo pressing game by Pochettino, there was plenty of endeavour but only sporadic quality in the first half.

Lamela emerged from the midfield battle ground when he accelerated away from two Southampton defender before unleashing a fierce long-range drive that Fraser Forster pushed away at full stretch.

With a point to prove to Pochettino, Southampton were crunching into their tackles and Kyle Naughton limped off after being hit by an aggressive challenge from Bertrand that caught the Tottenham right-back on his ankle.

- Narrow escape -

But their energy lacked focus and Eriksen was nearly gifted the opening goal by Forster when the Denmark midfielder’s 25-yard strike was spilled away for a corner by the Southampton goalkeeper.

That narrow escape should have served as a lesson to Southampton’s defenders to get closer to Eriksen.

But they failed to heed the warning and Tottenham took the lead five minutes before half-time with a beautifully constructed goal.

Emmanuel Adebayor controlled on his chest and surged away down the left before picking out Nacer Chadli.

The Belgian alertly flicked possession on to Eriksen, who deftly killed the ball’s momentum before guiding a clinical low strike past Forster from the edge of the area.

Chadli should have doubled Tottenham’s lead moments later when he burst clear of Saints defender Jose Fonte and stroked his shot goalwards, but his effort cannoned back off the far post.

Dusan Tadic’s deflected free-kick brought a smart save from Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as the visitors tried to respond before the interval.

The main threat to Tottenham’s lead came from Sadio Mane’s blistering pace and Tottenham captain Younes Kaboul might have considered himself fortunate to escape with a yellow card when he stopped the Senegal winger’s sprint towards goal with a subtle nudge.

Kaboul wasn’t covering himself in glory and his miscued clearance presented Victor Wanyama with a golden opportunity to equalise, only for Lloris to rescue his team-mate with a brilliant save to repel the Southampton midfielder’s stinging shot.

Koeman’s team were finishing strongly, but their final chance to snatch a point was squandered by Mane when he failed to convert Bertrand’s cross from no more than six yards.

- © AFP, 2014

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